The Elopement (eBook, US $2.99) is a true story about striking out in a bold way to follow your heart, quite literally. In 1999, I was forced to choose between a boy I’d fallen for and my loyalty as a daughter to my parents, who’d asked me to break with him.
Though I was raised in the so-called cultural melting pot of America, my immigrant parents weren’t interested in an intercultural marriage in their family. They let this be known, so we had to make a move. A big one. To Ireland. Blue seas taught me how to let go of some pre-programmed ideal to “be the perfect daughter.”
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ABOUT THE BOOK
On New Year’s Day, 2001, Dipika Kohli eloped.
When American-born Karin Malhotra* elopes to Ireland with her college sweetheart, she botches the dreams her parents had for her when they left New Delhi with a stalwart philosophy on what a good life “ought” to be. “Opportunity,” her father said, “is in the U.S. That’s why we came.”
But finding herself in Ireland, juxtaposed in not one, but two additional cultures (her new husband is Japanese), Karin finds herself thinking about the early years of her own parents’ married lives, and wondering if, like her, they questioned their decision to leave everything familiar for the mere promise of a better life.
She tumbles headlong without any preparation into a small village in the corner of Ireland. Not only does she have to contend with a new suite of social mores, she wonders what it would have been like had she not quit home.
The Elopement doesn’t get Karin her Prince Charming. But it does shake up a lifetime of one-dimensional thinking that says the only way to do things is by the book.
In rural Ireland, Karin cuts her teeth on real life.
She meets the kind of people who burst spontaneously into song, and who kayak in Level 5 rapids just for the craic. But there’s pain, too, the kind of pain her parents had worked so hard to shield her from.
What Karin finds is though she chased a new, bright light on a distant Atlantic horizon, she doesn’t gain a fairytale ending.
When Dipika Kohli quit her first job out of school for a round-the-world air ticket to India, her worldview forever changed.
Kirchoff’s laws, which she’d studied in engineering school, didn’t belong in the deserts of Rajasthan.
She circled about with a camera and journals, finding her way to nowhere in particular, before making a clear decision to marry her college sweetheart.
The break from an old life, a path she’d never be able to catch foot of again, came when she stunned her parents one morning with a call from a phone box at Ueno Park in Tokyo.
"Hi Dad. I got married this morning."
He was so annoyed, he didn’t talk to her for three years.
Meanwhile, in Eire, where’d she’d followed a boy to forge some original identity, Karin squarely met an entirely new suite of social mores. They were a newlywed couple, in a foreign land that neither was from, and they were trying to navigate both major shifts in parallel. Not exactly cake.
What does intercultural marriage look like in a place where neither party is from? And how does a 25-year old woman, whose parents held high hopes for her to “make it” as successful engineer cope with their scorn for her chosen life?
How does she come to terms, while navigating a newlywed lifestyle in a new land, with the hurt feelings on both sides after she eloped? Karin opts to be a homemaker in a rural, distant land, but as she gains in years she begins to rethink her big idea. Maybe the cost of leaving, she considers, was more than the reward.
This is a story about taking risks. It’s about flinging expectations to the wind before they come apart at the seams completely. It’s also about carving your own stone that says what it is that means “happiness” and “success.”
Here’s a message from author Dipika Kohli, talking about the 11 years’ worth of perspective and introspection between the day she eloped and now, at the eve of the launch of her first e-book.
*Names have been changed, but the story is relayed as it happened.
A MESSAGE FROM THE AUTHOR
Watch The Elopement ‘trailer'
Do you ever wonder what it would be like to trade everything you know well now for the mere promise of something new?
Have you ever wanted to take a chance, but didn’t?
Or maybe you did, but you always looked back, wondering if that was the right thing to do?
You might be one of the people who love reading about adventures, or an honest account of what it’s like in those first few years of marriage.
Here’s an example.
Why would anyone trade everything familiar to jump into a new marriage, in a new country, without telling her family and friends?
Elopement happens quietly.
Why would you do it?
Why would you skip the big party, the great show, especially if you’ve grown up thinking all your life you’d be a red-colored sari-wearing bride in a Bollywood-style wedding?
Why would anyone choose to miss their own “biggest, most important day?” That’s what the wedding industry asks, after all. But in the writing of this book, Dipika met more people who shared their own elopement stories. That made her see that eloping ought not be something to be ashamed of, but celebrated. It’s just one way to do it, if you want.
Again, why would you elope?
To get away from everything familiar, perhaps. To save money. But how about this: how about you decide to elope because your parents told you they’re not into your choice of mate.
Because of racial differences.
What if you grew up in America, the so-called cultural melting pot, but when your Delhi-born parents meet your Japanese sweetheart, they are in complete denial that you are anywhere near serious about this guy.
What if you almost talk yourself out of it, thinking they’re right, and you could go along with some pre-programmed Indian marriage with the son of someone your Dad went to college with 20 years ago, someone who lives in Illinois but you have never heard of, and you’re about to get on a plane to meet him at their urging?
That wasn’t for me.
I eloped. I married Akira Morita. And for years, I wondered if that was smart.
Again and again, I wondered if it was really a good idea to leave behind comfort, security, and most of all, my Indian culture—even if it was the “American-born confused” kind that our parents joked about.
I wondered if the small village we tumbled headlong into in Ireland was really a good place for us to be, still in our twenties. Forsaking security of the straight-on path my parents had drawn in the sand before me, I embarked on a new chance on the promise of love.
If you’ve always wondered what would happen if you took a chance and “went for it!, damn everyone!” then this book is for you. But if you’re thinking, “Well, I’m happy with every decision I’ve made, ever, and never look back,” then it is not.
People who love Ireland, and especially West Cork, will be in for a treat as this book takes you to the landscape of O’Donovan and McCarthy country, to Skibbereen and Clonakilty and vistas of the ocean, too.
If you are one of those people who says, “I wish I could go live in Europe!,” then this book is for you. Because that’s exactly what I used to think, and then I went to see what was there, and now, I’m here to tell you.
It’s a challenge to the regular way of doing things: of following the job, or the money, of making sure you think everyone’s dating profile is one hundred percent perfect before you schedule a coffee meetup. It’s for people who wonder what might have happened if they’d followed their heart for their love.
People who crave adventure, and the break from the ho-hum of the everyday—they will like The Elopement, too.
If you enjoyed The Alchemist, you will like The Elopement.
The “boy” in the Alchemist is a character of fiction, but my story is real life. Do you like to know about what really happens in people’s marriages?
When they say it’s going great, and they look like they’re doing great, but maybe, honestly, on the inside there’s nothing great at all? Would you want to know about real people with real issues, instead of having to look at all those ridiculous happy updates on Facebook and feel bad?
The Elopement tells it straight.
Now, for the artists.
Do you enjoy the storytelling style of people who like to play with words, with the cadences and sounds, the lilt and color? The Elopement is for people who dream. People who love. But while doing both, question the substance of each.
It’s for philosopher-artist types. It’s for those who like literature, but the really old books as well as what’s popular and new. Poets. It’s for those who think about big things because they have space to do so, or see art movies, or fall in love with the edge of a building against the sky because architecture is expression, too.
It’s for us existentialists, who question why things are the way they are, and ask big questions. Things we wouldn’t bring to some of our best acquaintances, or even our dearest friends, but that we’d talk about in a room of strangers at a getaway to Europe if the chance was there.
It’s for people who like to look at the stars and be still for long periods of time. Introverts. But it’s also for people who love to know about things like what it’s like on the inside of a cross-cultural marriage, where you’re not sure how things are working even in the midst of the stream. It’s a point of view that we don’t often talk about: when things are tough, yet look picture-perfect from the outside. Anyone who’s gone through a rough patch in a relationship, one that matters a lot and gives them time and space to grow from, will recognize some of themselves in this book.
It’s for people who wonder, always, what about if? What could have been different? Because in the wondering, there’s some daydreaming, and in that, there’s new light.
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT
Have you ever wanted to just do something outrageous, without worrying what anyone else said or thought?
What would it be? What stopped you? When it came time to throw away everything familiar for a hint of something beautiful and amazing yet to come, the author of The Elopement said, “Why not?”
Was it worth it? Would she do it again? Eleven years after the fact, the author speaks back.
Does this sound familiar?:
You are one of those people who got A+ grades, all the time. You didn’t veer from the track, because you were good at school. You followed the rules, you played your cards the best you could. But something happened: you found out, years later, there was nothing to “win” for this.
Why is it that people go about their lives in America in a way that’s “accepted,” rather than unconventional?
Why does someone who elects to start their own business, with their own meager savings, get scoffed at by people with “more”?
How is it possible that our culture squelches initiative and creativity, only to promote more ho-hum, humdrum of the mundane and mediocre, in style and results?
It’s too much.
This book is a beacon for those who want to throw practical sense upside-down, turning it on its head, and do the thing they never thought was possible. But then they did it. And saw, they could.
William Blake put it like this:
"Prudence is a rich ugly old maid courted by incapacity."
Sometimes throwing away the practical agenda for a risk and a chance, that’s gold.
If you read The Elopement, you’ll find out just how one person dealt with things that didn’t end the way they’d hoped.
You’ll discover that being human is falling in love fast, but not knowing why, or questioning where it might lead.
You’ll see a mother’s love for her daughter, but in a pained, unhealthy form.
If you read this book, right now, you’ll be the first of a small group of people to find out what it means to have travelled the world and come to terms with nagging questions of how to be part of a community, a family, a marriage, and a self.
It’s honest. It’s raw. It’s not overproduced.
In the same DIY attitude that comes with one who elopes, this memoir’s not even going through traditional publishing routes.
It’s coming out because the author is trusting that years of daily newsreporting plus starting an alternative paper in Ireland with some friends was enough of real life to learn how to ask the good questions, to find out what people cared about along the way.
It’s coming out now because it’s time.
It’s ready, and it’s time.
I got back to Durham, NC, at the tail end of 2009, when the recession busted my ideas of continuing a home business and with a small child on my hip. My parents said I could come in, but there was a strain there. This book is a chance for me to tell you, and them, how I’ve honestly been feeling about our break.
Have you found it difficult to talk to a loved one in your family, about your real and honest feelings? Maybe the pain is still too raw. This book is a way to give all of us permission to talk about the dark places, the rocky spots, and the potential to break through to what’s more bright, light, and brilliant: acceptance of who and where we are.
Ready to take the plunge?
Don’t overthink it.
If it’s right, it’s right.
Do it now :)
Hear me talk about The Elopement with WUNC’s Frank Stasio on his show, “The State of Things.”
Read what my alma mater, N.C. State University, wrote about The Elopement on the alumni blog.
One month after the launch of this book, I got more e-mails than I ever anticipated from people telling me they were going through “something similar.” I got to be on WUNC’s “State of Things” and talk to the seasoned NPR host there, Frank Stasio, quite candidly about love colliding with culture.
Before the on-air interview, he said to me: “I read your book, it’s really good.”
I went, “Really?”
He said yes. “It’s a story about identity. Something we can all relate to, in some way.”
Now I’m a month away from releasing my next book in the four-volume series, The Dive. A little nervous, but more confident now that I see how beautifully the e-publishing channel makes it possible to connect with people, on a level that’s really meaningful and not just e-pulp.
You can be the first to hear about the new release of this and two future volumes by clicking here to join the Kismuth community.